Electric school buses helped reinforce the electric grid this summer in Beverly, Massachusetts, providing energy and resilience when the demand was at its highest.
Two Thomas Built Buses electric school buses produced more than 7-megawatt hours of energy to the grid. The buses demonstrated viability as a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) resource through 32 grid events this summer, helping reinforce energy needs during some of the hottest days of the year.
The buses were activated by fleet electrification-as-a-service provider Highland Electric Fleets and the energy was added to the grid through a commercial V2G program with National Grid. The program also included technology partners Proterra, Rhombus Energy Solutions, and Synop.
Overall, the program delivered 80 hours of power to the region. In 2021, Highland partnered with the same companies to use an electric bus to produce around 3 MWh of energy back to the grid over nearly 60 hours and 30 events.
“Electric school buses are ideal assets for V2G applications,” says Sean Leach, director of technology and platform management at Highland. “Nearly 500,000 school buses in North America spend most of their time parked. Fossil fuel-powered buses provide no value when idle. Electric buses, on the other hand, can be used effectively as mobile batteries when not transporting students to provide additional power that supports grid stability and resiliency.”
The V2G market is expected to reach $12.75 billion by 2031, according to Transparency Market Research. The use of V2G use is also increasing in commercial buildings, helping grow the building energy management market.
Currently, there are more than 480,000 diesel-powered school buses in the United States, with about 1,000 electric buses in service, according to the World Resources Institute. There are incentives in both the newly passed infrastructure bill, which has $5 billion worth of grants for schools, and the Inflation Reduction Act to increase the decarbonization of buses.
Last year, one of the first V2G-enabled school buses entered the market in Peoria, Illinois.
The Thomas Built Bus electric school bus used in Beverly is a Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley. It uses 226-kilowatt hours of total energy capacity from Proterra’s battery technology and electric drivetrain that provides up to 138 miles of operational range.
Rhombus’ 60 KW fast charger was also used and can provide bidirectional charging capabilities for up to five school buses per power control system. Synop offers a fleet management system that helps regulate energy on the grid, and monitors charging management, energy use, V2G operations, and route planning.
The success of the Massachusetts program shows that electric buses can be used as V2G resources, the companies say, and is providing a template for similar offerings in Vermont, Maryland, Colorado, California, and Virginia.